far too much writing, far too many photos

Took myself to see Amores Perros (Dog Loves) this afternoon, a Mexican film nominated for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Academy Awards. Man, I’ll tell you what: this is a serious movie. Well-written, well-conceived and directed, well-acted. Intense, and for those who don’t care for violent films: beware, it is fairly hard-core. When there isn’t any actual violence, there’s the feeling of the potential for it, or the moving toward it. It reminded me of Pulp Fiction, without the comic book feel. A film that cuts right to the nihilism. Some might disagree about the use of that word, but that’s how it felt to me.

The film consists of three intertwined stories, the protagonists of which share two things: a sudden, brutal car crash, and love for a dog or dogs.

And another similarity to Pulp Fiction: great soundtrack.

I noticed the filmmakers took pains to reassure the viewers that no animals were hurt in any way in the making of the film, announcing it both before and after the story. That’s because if they didn’t, you’d swear you’d witnessed a fair amount of carnage. Lots of dog fighting in the first story, a tale that seems to take up about half the film.

A great movie, but let the viewer beware.

In part, I went to see this bugger as a distraction from what’s happening in the world right now, and momma, it accomplished that. I think the next entertainment I take myself to will be something gentler, less homicidal.

Last night the weather forecast mentioned the possibility of showers in Madrid today. There’s been heavy weather in Spain’s northwest and southeast, with storms causing flooding in Valencia today. I made sure to bring an umbrella (a paraguas — literally, for waters) when I left to go to the film. When I left the theater afterwards, I’d just missed what was apparently a cloudburst, deep water still running along the curbs. Yet another confirmation that the seasons are changing. And while there are plenty of people out in Chueca, it being Friday night, the area here around la Plaza de Chueca is quiet and sparsely attended right now. For the moment, the weather has driven the revelers to other locales.

An interesting phenomenon in Madrid — Friday and Saturday nights, during the cold season and inclement weather, young folks gather in the Metro stations to hang out and drink. Makes sense, I guess. Halfway between here and my old piso is a plaza running along a downhill slope — just off the traffic circle Alonzo Martinez –- called la Plaza de Santa Barbara. During the warm season, this is a gathering place for hundreds and hundreds of young folk. Lots of drinking, laughter, romance, general carrying-on.

And speaking of romance, something else I enjoy about Madrid: the amount of affection shown in public. Couples are openly affectionate, openly romantic, both younger folk and middle-aged folk, married and unmarried. I often see older couples walking hand in hand or arm in arm, and it’s especially common to see that between generations, especially among women. Mothers and daughters of every age bracket, sometimes three generations walking along like that. That feels particularly good because the elderly folks are generally far less demonstrative and open than the younger folks, something that makes perfect sense considering that Spaniards past a certain age lived through the civil war and decades of dictatorship, a genuine nightmare that left many of their generation with the kind of imprint that the Great Depression did to many in the States.

It’s lovely to see so much evidence of affection. Here in Chueca, gay territory, it’s common to see same-sex couples holding hands or with arms around other, and in Madrid in general, women show each other plenty of physical affection.

In general, the impression I’ve gotten here is that the Spaniards are better trained in social relationships than we are in the States. It seems to be a tighter society, people seem to have more extensive, more durable social networks than I think most people in the States do — part of the socialization that happens during younger years. I don’t know if that holds in romantic relationships, though the family unit is extremely important, part of the core around which life here is built. People in the States make a fairly big show of talking about ‘family values.’ Here they seem to do a better job of incorporating it into the basic mode of living. But. That may be changing now that the centuries of Church domination and decades of Franco-era repression are in the past. Women show less willingness to accept the default family roles that Spanish society used to decree. The divorce rate is climbing. It’ll be interesting to see how all that plays out over time.

One interesting way the States seem to be ahead in terms of displays of affection: hetero American men have, over the last 20 years or so, begun to hug each other quite a bit, though that may be more common in some regions, less common in others. Here I’ve rarely seen that, though every now and then I do see the two-cheek kiss. Mostly between gay men, I suspect.

When I first arrived in Madrid, the two-cheek kiss took me by surprise, immediately winning me over. Being introduced to a woman who then kisses you twice, on either side of the face, is just so nice. Sweet, tactile, a bit sexy. Happens all the time here, and never fails to make me smile, even if it’s the two-cheek air kiss that sometimes attempts to pass as the real item.

One last thing I enjoy about the Spaniards: their obvious love of children. Walking home after Amores Perros, I found myself behind a 30-something woman strolling hand-in-hand with her son, maybe 4 years old, completely absorbed in the passing scenery: stores, people, sounds, activity. At one point, she bent over, gave him a kiss on the cheek. He immediately wiped it off, they continued on, him alternately skipping and trotting, her appearing completely unruffled by the kiss removal. They were both happy, she clearly loved him. Fun to watch, fun to be around.


It’s Friday night, 9:30. I’ve been eating on and off since I got back from the movie, around 7:15, my stomach still somewhat on American time. I was just in the kitchen, which is right next to — extremely right next to when it comes to sounds and smells — the kitchen in the neighboring apartment. Dinner’s happening there right now, as in just getting ready to eat, which reminds me all over again how the different the Spanish eating schedule is. 9:30 or 10:00 is normal dinnertime. Friday night, many restaurants don’t begin serving dinner until 8:30, others until 9:00, still others until 9:30. People go out to eat late, after that they go out for drinks. And when you finally arrive home at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. or later, the streets in some areas are literally many times busier with people than they are at one or two in the afternoon.

Life’s different here.

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